The Michigan Daily

'Escape Mechanism' creates sound collage
January 26, 1999

Every band has underlying theories about how to make music, whether they realize it or not. Escape Mechanism has chosen a dangerous theory to use. The self-titled debut boasts that it is a "sound collage." And here we reach a potential ethical problem: If you have taken the sounds from others, have you made music merely by combining the sounds?

The music on "Escape Mechanism" is subdued and almost ambient, although not exactly quiet. Bass heavy samples tend to-wards the subdued; the music is not distinct from song to song. It is almost as if to stand out would mean stealing too much from a source.

The voice samples therefore become the tags by which songs can be told apart, and the vague themes they present become the melodies that identify songs instead of the normal musical cues. "Digital Occasion" contains a sample that talks about the dichotomy; how lyrics become dominant when music is marginalized. It also talks about the use of the voice as an abstract instrument itself, illustrated by the occasional choir or cheer on the album. Seemingly identifiable voices (was that Springer?) work against that abstractness, carrying meaning separate from the sound itself.

There are also less abstract samples, however. "Why Does the Light Fall?" contains an identifiable snippet of dialogue from the film "2010." "Draining" has longer portions from a Sesame Street album and a zoned out Mr. Rogers monologue, with a rhythm track that sounds stolen from Siouxie and the Banshee's "Peekaboo" and a melody from a toy piano or a xylophone.

The words keep the songs in line. Would Escape Mechanism be as creative if it sampled familiar materials? Maybe it would induce that creepy feeling you get listening to a Puff Daddy song. But until such time as the band is powerful enough to pilfer stuff you've already heard, they sound pretty good.